Castles you said? OK, where to start….? I think we should have a few trips on our calendar to these “
large buildings, typically of the medieval period, fortified against attack with thick walls, battlements, towers, and in many cases a moat.” And palaces too? You mean those “ large and impressive buildings forming the official residence of a ruler, pope, archbishop, etc.?” No problem! We got those covered as well in great numbers. Indeed, besides churches and cathedrals, castles and palaces are probably the most visited places during the dozens of different trips we organise around the world.
We already have a nice
overview of all the cathedrals we visited, as well as of all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites (many double actually) or the places with recognized UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, or of all the must-see destinations that we go to regularly or specifically for Belgium, but we have never given a good overview of all the castles and palaces that had the pleasure of receiving our groups. So without further ado, let’s dive right in! First the trips focused on castles and palaces, followed by all the trips in which we visited a castles or palaces as part of a larger program. Deux Châteaux tripOur first castle on this trip was on our calendar since the first year, Bouillon Castle. The second one, Sedan Castle, came much later but the combination is so logical and unique because they are a mere 20 minutes apart by bus. Château de Bouillon was once owned by Godfrey de Bouillon. The castle was first mentioned in 988 although there was a castle on the same site for much longer. Expat Club travels here either in combination with a nice kayaking tour on the Semois river, or a visit to Sedan Castle across the French border. | © tatiff55 – Fotolia Château de Sedan, the largest fort in Europe in Northern France at only a few kilometers from the Belgian border. Our second castle on our Deux Châteaux day trip from Brussels. | © Châteaux de Sedan White Cliffs of Dover & Castles trip Brussels is so centrally located that our city allows us to travel back and forth to England in one (long) day. Departing early morning at 06h45, we arrive around 9h30 in Calais from where we take a ferry to Dover. With the famous White Cliffs approaching fast, also Dover Castle on top looms up in the distance. Our participants now have to make a tough decision: hiking towards our final destination Deal, or join the castles tour. With Dover, Walmer and Deal castle on our itinerary, it’s a great trip to tick off some castles from your bucket list. Dover Castle is is England’s largest medieval castle. Situated on the famous White Cliffs of Dover, it is also a historic place since several military missions were planned from inside the rocks, including Operation Dynamo to save hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches. | © Filip Fuxa – Shutterstock Walmer Castle, our second castle on the great White Cliffs of Dover daytrip by ferry. The gardens are exquisite and the interior warm and special. And if you are lucky, you can spot one of the foxes walking around here. | © Oszibusz – Shutterstock Our third and final one on the trip… Deal Castle in the coastal town Deal, known for both this fortified castle and the Pier. An excellent place to end our trip, because the fish & chips are already deep-frying while we drive the final few miles from Walmer Castle towards Deal. |© Oszibusz – Shutterstock Châteaux de la Loire trip One of our most beloved trips, as well as one of the first long weekend trip that we put on the agenda, takes place in the scenic Loire region just 200km South of Paris. This region is likely the world’s most favourite castles region, at least for the French kings and nobility. Not less than 300 castles in all forms, shapes and sizes are dotted over the landscape, including world-famous ones such as Chenonceau and Chambord. We visit 6 of them while an excellent local guide explains about the history and former inhabitants. This trip normally takes place in the first half of July. To learn a bit more about all the castles we visit just read this article so you are fully updated. The Château de Blois is our first castle stop. Home to the king of France, it could carry the predicate Royal. Besides a guided tour during the day, we also visit the spectacular sound & light show, depicting the history of the castle on the entire inner courtyard. | © Sergey Berestetsky – Shutterstock Yes, you may recognize this castle. Château de Cheverny was a model for Château de Moulinsart from the famous Belgian comic series. Still inhabited by the marquis, it is probably the most interesting castle to visit when it comes to the interior, because it is still full of furniture, artifacts and a collection of armory. There is a lovely orangerie restaurant in the back. | © leoks – Shutterstock Admitted that Château de Chissay is only a 5-minutes photo on our way to the village Chenonceaux (guess which castle is there), but we can not recommend staying in this hotel castle enough when you’re on a romantic trip in the region. Not the largest, but definitely eye-catching, the Château de Chenonceau is the most visited castle in the Loire region. It’s distinctive bridge section spans the Cher river (and not the Loire as many people think). This is the perfect place to have lunch as well, because there restaurant in the Orangerie serves a delicious lunch. | © Antoine2K – Shutterstock The Château Royal d’Amboise towers high above the Loire river. One of the most famous and genius man in history found his final resting place here, Leonardo d’Avinci. His house is just a few minutes walking away. | © Viacheslav Lopatin – Shutterstock And here it is, Château du Clôs Lucé was inhabited by the great Leonardo d’Avinci between 1516 and 1519. Both the house and the gardens, with its many large models of d’Avinci inventions, can be visited. | © andreyspb21 – Shutterstock No doubt one of the most impressive castles in the world. Château de Chambord is situated in the middle of a large forest that was used for hunting parties… just a few weeks per year. Every time the royals arrived, they took all their belongings, including furniture, with them. This is our huge cherry on top of an already fantastic castles trip to the Loire Valley about 200km South of Paris. | © Petr Kovalenkov – Shutterstock Bavarian Castles trip Every May we travel to the South of Germany to visit a selection of amazing Bavarian castles. Besides the Cinderella Neuschwanstein castle, there are several other jewels on our itinerary. Besides that, we visit nice cities like Würzburg, Nürnberg and of course Munich. Let’s discover them right away! Oh, and here is a more in-depth article about this great trip, and one how this trip is experienced by one of our regular guests and by an 8-year old. Not the only stop in Würzburg, but definitely also an unmissable one. The Würzburg Residenz is outside and inside a remarkable building. | © Pairath Tawin – Shutterstock Bavaria-Munich-Residenz-By-trabantos-shutterstock_432854803.jpg The Herrenchiemsee on the island with the same name, is often called Bavaria’s Versailles. When the money was gone, large parts of the palace were still unfinished. |© Thanapol Tontinikorn – Shutterstock The smallest of the castles we visit, but this one will impress you and will unambiguously show you what King Ludwig’s taste for indoor decoration was. | © Scirocco340 – Shutterstock Birthplace of King Ludwig, the Hohenschwangau Castle is a must-see and a perfect warm-up for our next castle. |© Yury Dmitrienko – Shutterstock Certainly one of the most iconic and famous castles in the world, Neuschwanstein is the height of our trip. |© canadastock – Shutterstock On our way back to Brussels we make one more stop to see the Kaiserburg in Nurnberg. | © Mariia Golovianko | Shutterstock Miscellaneous tripsDuring many of our trips we visit a castle or palace, or see one from up close. They literally come in all forms and shapes, and they are always great for just a quick photo stop or possibly a longer visit. The Château de Walzin is a favorite milestone on our Lesse kayaking trips, which we normally do at least twice per year. | by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT (own work), via Wikimedia Commons The Tower of London is one of the most famous medieval castles in the world. Holding the priceless Crown Jewels, it was built in the 11th and 12th century. It’s one of the many places we visit during our London Trip. Having visited the Tower of London, we of course also have to see Buckingham Palace. The entrance to the Château de Boulogne. The castle is an integral part of the ramparts of the old town of Boulogne sur Mer. | by Marc Ryckaert MJJR (own work), via Wikimedia Commons The Koenigsberg Castle is situated on the Easter foothills of the Vosges Mountains overlooking the Alsace vineyards, the Rhine valley and the Black Forest in the distance. Every fall we travel to the Alsace for a visit to Colmar, drive the famous Alsace Wine Route, discover the most scenic half-timbered houses and of course enjoy the food and wine. Chillon Castle is situated on Lac Leman (Lake of Geneva) not far from the super-de-luxe city Montreux (famous for its Jazz festival). We only drive by this castle on our week-long Switzerland tour. | © Zacharie Grossen (own work), via Wikimedia Commons The Gruyère Castle is located on a small hill in a valley beween the high mountains. Famous for its cheese fondues, this is a perfect place for a stop on our way back from Zermatt to Basel.| © Ksenija Toyechkina – Shutterstock The Wawel Castle was the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated on a small high on the Vistula River, it is a must-see site while visiting Krakow. Expat Club travels to the Southern Poland town as part of the Auschwitz visit. | © DzidekLazek – Pixabay At just 70km Northeast from Paris, the Château de Pierrefonds has a very long history and seems to be partially medieval. Still, looks can be deceiving since it was fully restored only a few hundred years ago after the earlier castle was left in ruins for a long time. Just 20k North of Paris one can find Europe’s largest and possibly most beautiful horse stables. They are an integral part of a larger domain of the impressive Château de Chantilly. Indeed, the place where the famous cream comes from. The castle itself is incredibly rich in art and very nicely decorated. The mother of all palaces, Château de Versailles is so big and over-the-top impressive that it inspired many kings and noblemen to build similar-style edifices. This is where the Sun Kings used to live and enjoy their lives with extravagant parties. A visit to Versailles should be on everyone’s bucket list. | © ThomasLENNE – Shutterstock Château de Caen is situated in the middle of the Normandy capital Caen. Since we often use this city as our starting point for both the Mont Saint-Michel trip and the D-Day trip, the castle is a regular on our calendar | by Nikater (own work), via Wikimedia Commons The Paleis op de Dam or Dam Square Palace in Amsterdam. It only functions as an actual palace for major royal events, such as weddings, the annual WWII Commemoration and State visits by foreign leaders. | © markandimi – Pixabay The Palazzo Ducale or the Doge Palace was the residence of the Doge. Its origins date back to the 14th century, although it was extended and changed often over the centuries | © Andre – Fotolia The Ducal Palace in Luxembourg Centre is really a working palace, although visiting Heads of States regularly stay here during their visits. We always go to Luxembourg the last Saturday of August and enjoy a guided tour inside. The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul covers several buildings and is a must-see site during a visit to Turkey’s largest city. | © Gelia – Shutterstock The former Ciragan Palace on the Bosphorus is now a luxury hotel. Expat Club visits Istanbul during an extended weekend trip. | © Sailorr – Shutterstock The Dolmabahçe Palace on the Bosphorus is one of the most opulent palaces you can imagine. During our Istanbul trip we will be guided through the palace by a local guide. | © Delpixel – Shutterstock The baroque-style Belvedere Palace in Vienna serves now as a museum. | © Sedmakova – Shutterstock Vienna’s Schloss Schönbrunn is a major tourist attraction. The former home of Sissi, it’s a favorite filming location as well. |© saiko3p – Shutterstock The Royal Palace in Oslo was built in the first half of the 19th century as the Norwegian residence of the French-born King Charles III John of Norway, who reigned as king of Norway and Sweden. | © Burjuva – Pixabay Stockholm Palace or the Royal Palace is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch. Stockholm Palace is on Stadsholmen, in Gamla stan in the capital, Stockholm. It neighbours the Riksdag building (source: Wikipedia). We visit the Swedish capital during the Midsummer weekend. | © Bin im Garten – Pixabay The Sanssouci Palace is located in a beautiful park in the city of Potsdam near Berlin. It was built by Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia, as a summer residence. We visit it during a morning visit on our first day of the Berlin weekend tour. | © Susanne906 – Pixabay The Charlottenburg Palace or Schloss Charlottenburg was erected in the 17th and 18th century in the Baroque style like many buildings in the German capital. | BeLichtErstatter – Pixabay Brussels For our last selection of palaces we don’t even have to leave town. A tram or bus ride would be sufficient to see two of them, right in the heart of Brussels and one in the outskirts in Laken not far from the Atomium. The official residence of the Royal Family, Palace of Laeken is situated in a large park called the Royal Domain of Laeken. Originally named the Castle of Schonenberg it is now simply the Royal Palace. | © NikkyS – Pixabay The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the King and Queen of the Belgians in the centre of Brussels. | © dimitrisvetsikas1969 – Pixabay
Now that it is crystal clear that Expat Club is the place to be for you if you like castles and palaces, please do let us know what castle or palace you still miss on this list! You would not be the first person to make an excellent suggestion that we soon after actually integrate in one of our many trips.